Wednesday, 28 November 2012

The Secret Purpose of Setting

Psst! Come closer. This is a secret.

I designed the regions of Into the Odd's setting to rather sneakily act as Signposts for the core stuff a player needs to know.

The Sister States

Rosevine is a city in the middle of a chaotic Revolution. The only remaining monarch we hear of is in the middle of being overthrown. Oh, and she might be a shape-shifting reptoid.

Bastion is a truly modern, Industrial city. Canals connect it with the rest of the world and it sits on vaults filled with weird stuff.

Starfall is a city built on the ruins of Astral Visitors. It's filled with star cults, universities and weird places to explore.

Now the reader know that this is an Industrial world, filled with Revolutions and the lingering influence of Astral Visitors. 

The Frontiers

The Islands demonstrate the reach of the Sister States as a Colonial power.

The Golden Lands are mostly unknown to the Sister States, showing just how Vast the world is.

The Polar Ocean acts as the ultimate Mystery for any explorer.

Now the reader knows that, while the Sister States have the reach of a Colonial power, the world is Vast and Mysterious, leaving lots of white space on the map and potential rival powers.

The Odd World - Why Visit the Polar Ocean?

This is the final post covering the six main regions of the Odd World. We've seen the crumbling glory of Rosevine, the smoke-filled hub of Bastion and the alien weirdness of Starfall. Beyond the Sister States we've seen the loosely colonised Islands and the dauntingly massive continent of the Golden Lands. Now we arrive at the deadliest and most mysterious frontier yet, the Polar Ocean. This is what the game document has to say.

The great Polar Ocean stretches as far North as anyone has ventured. Few explorers return and each brings a different story. Some talk of a shining paradise and some of a passage to the stars themselves. The mysteries of this Ocean continue to draw explorers to their death.

Things to do in the Polar Ocean
- Die horribly.
- Never return.
- Barely make it back to civilization as a babbling husk of your former self.

Polar exploration is something of a last resort here. There are plenty of unexplored islands and a whole continent to your South. Anyone that tries to solve the mysteries of the world by sailing North deserves what they get.

Monday, 26 November 2012

The Odd World - Why Visit the Golden Lands?

The Golden Lands represent an entirely different frontier to The Islands. The latter seem tame and manageable compared to this sprawling continent. Here's what the game document has to say. 

The distant continent to the South starts as sweltering jungle and impassible swamp, leading to an endless stretch of desert. Dotted amongst the feral cultures are great cities filled with riches. These distant kingdoms watch the amassing guns of the Sister States and hide their own forces and Arcane secrets.

Things to Do in the Golden Lands
- Get some gold! They wouldn't call it the Golden Lands for no reason, would they?
- Stir up a war with the Sister States. The industrialised regions here are more than capable of mounting a sizeable, mobile army.
- Bring the wonders of technology or astral worship to the feral cultures. Just try not to get murdered.
- If you thought the Astrals left an impact on the Sister States wait until you see what's crashed in the jungle.
- Hunt primordial beasts, perhaps even bringing one back to the Sister States alive.
- There are ancient ruins down here too, you know. Civilization has been here just as long as back at home and there are plenty of fallen societies.
- Find out what lies beyond of the endless desert. Even the locals don't seem to be sure.

Friday, 23 November 2012

The Odd World - Why Visit the Islands?

There's a whole world beyond the Sister States. Those that are most influenced by Rosevine, Bastion and Starfall are the Islands. Here's what the game document has to say about them.

Tiny specks of land dot the ocean to the West and East of the Sister States. Most settlements are colonies of the Sister States but some native societies prevail. Life here is simpler but more lawless than in the Sister States. Uprisings against colonial rule are on the increase. 

Things to do on the Islands
- Establish your own colony, peacefully or otherwise.
- Free the native population from colonial rule. 
- Explore forbidden caves, jungles and swamps where natives tell of strange happenings. 
- Track down the mythical wandering island. 
- Try a new fangled submersible vessel and dive to the ocean floor to see the strange, metal wreckage lying there. 
- Bring the joys of astral worship to the natives or free them of the influence of sinister sects. 
- Just get away from everyone in the Sister States who wants you dead and work on your tan. 

Thursday, 22 November 2012

The Odd World - Why Visit Starfall?

If Rosevine is longing for its glorious past and Bastion is a beacon of modernity then Starfall seems to have stumbled into this world from the distant future. Here's what the game document tells us about the Stolen City.

Some credit the bizarre architecture of Starfall to a fallen civilisation previously occupying the city, but many scholars claim it was built by the Astrals. Glass towers and steel pyramids house everything from factories to universities, some remaining inaccessible to even the wisest academics. Astral worshippers consider a pilgrimage to Starfall essential to gaining a true understanding of the world and the space beyond. The countless sects of astral worshippers have vastly different beliefs and agendas, rarely coexisting peacefully.

Things to do in Starfall
- Get involved in the street wars between sects of astral worshippers.
- Gain access to one of the many otherworldly structures of the city to find the truth inside.
- Work alongside smugglers bringing Arcana back into the city or shipping it out to one of the rival Sister States. 
- Try to find out why an entire block of houses vanished overnight. 
- Take your Arcana to leading academics to see if any further function can be uncovered.

The Odd World - Why Visit Bastion?

If Rosevine represents the sprawling history of the world then Bastion is an icon of everything occurring in the present. Here's what the game document has to say about the Hub of Mankind.

With nearly a million citizens, Bastion has become the largest city in the known world. Its skies are black with smoke and its streets bustling with residents from every corner of the world. Canals feed the city with trade from every direction and vast factories produce mass goods and new prototypes. The city sits on a network of tunnels and vaults that hold devices and beings of great power. Their contents are only known and accessed by the ministers that lead the nation's parliament. New ideas and enterprises flourish along with frequent and bloody revolutions. 

Things to do in Bastion
- Sneak into the vaults underneath the city, hoping to snatch a powerful Arcanum.
- Work with local academics to recover a new Arcanum to be stashed away in the vaults. 
- Investigate a reclusive engineer thought to be trying to transfer his life force into a machine. 
- Lead downtrodden factory workers in a rebellion. 
- Find out who or what is behind the hideously mangled corpses being found floating in the city's canals. 
- Earn some money in a fighting pit. 
- Join the latest political idealist in gathering an army of supporters.
- Deal with an escaped entity from the vaults, now roaming the tunnels beneath the city. 

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

The Odd World - Why Visit Rosevine?

Characters in Into the Odd are assumed to come from one of the three Sister States. The most historically important of these is Rosevine. But why would the characters want to go back there? Here's what the game itself has to say about the City of Flies. 

The greatest seafaring empires in history have called Rosevine their capital. Architectural wonders of past centuries lie ravaged by plague and civil unrest. Queen Rosa IX claims both the city's throne and headship of the Celestial Temple. The anti-astral Union of Man call for her head, rumours spreading that she is an otherworldly imposter. Daily riots have pushed the Royal Court into a barricaded palace and underground catacombs. Union enforcers hunt down Astral Worshippers while the common citizen lives a life of fear and uncertainty. 

Things to do in Rosevine
- Explore the city's ancient architecture, perhaps hiding wonders not understood by the city's previous rulers. 
- Investigate reports of the plague having unpredictable side effects on its victims. 
- Join the Union of Man and overthrow that shapeshifting imposter of a queen. 
- Volunteer for the Queen's guard, restoring order to the city. 
- Get involved with some aristocratic politics and get to the bottom of the accusations against the queen. 
- Aid the Union of Man in routing out Astral Cults, or provide them with protection in return for a powerful Arcanum. 
- Find out the source of the pestilence that is currently ravaging the city. 
- Aid the terrified citizens in stealing a vessel and escaping to the colonies. 

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Fluff and Crunch? Try Meat and Bones.

Fluff and Crunch isn't a very useful dichotomy.

Of course, there's a lot of grey area in between, but I have more of an issue with what's implied.

Crunch sounds good. It's crunch time! This is the important stuff. Let's crunch on down to business.

Fluff sounds bad. What's all this fluff taking up space? Nobody wants to be concerned with fluffy things.

I'm not taking sides. The truth is most games benefit from having both. So I'd rather look at it this way.

Bones are the very core of what makes a game a game. That cheat-sheet you made for yourself that just has the bare rules of the game? That's the game's skeleton right there. D&D has HP, HD, Levels and Ability Scores making up the core of its skeleton.

Some games are nearly all Bones. Some games barely have a skeleton at all. When you start messing with a game's Bones you might improve it or create a clumsy abomination. At some point it will resemble an entirely different animal.

Meat is what lies on top of the bones, connected to the game's skeleton. This isn't meaningless fluff. It's part of the game. Still, it's stuff that can be moved around, toned, bulked out. Spell lists are meat. Classes are meat.

It might be hard to imagine the skeleton of a game without any meat at all, but it's entirely possible. Most players will have a preference for just how much meat they like to see. Some may want just enough to cover the bones, others will want a colossus of flesh.

Skin lies on top of the meat. While the meat may be acting as muscle, working alongside the skeleton of the game, skin is clearly separated from the bones. This is the map of the world in the back of your setting guide, the chunks of flavour text and the beautiful art.

You may call this fluff, but that does it a disservice. There are people who aren't interested in buying a game with a skin, just the meat and bones. They'll end up putting their own skin on the game.

Monday, 12 November 2012

Odd Encounters - Black Shell

Black Shell
2hp, Armour 3.
Immobile and unable to attack as normal.
When reduced to 0hp the shell is broken and the creature within is released with immediate hostility.
The shell at first appears to be a glass-like cocoon. The writhing creature inside is only faintly visible in the darkness. Anyone that touches the cocoon attracts the creature's attention and is subject to its gaze as described below.

Creature Within
STR 14, DEX 10, WIL 12, 7hp, Armour 1.
A black, chitinous humanoid that strikes for 1d6+1 damage.
Its gaze can be targeted at one individual each turn, in addition to attacking. The target must pass a WIL Save or fall to the ground, paralysed until they have a Short Rest. If they are left alone with the creature while paralysed it will begin to regurgitate a viscous slime over their body, which soon hardens into their own Black Shell. By the next morning they are a Creature Within and trapped until the shell is broken.

Friday, 2 November 2012

Odd Encounters - Glass Crawler

Glass Crawler
STR 4, DEX 4, WIL 5, 6hp.

An unearthly, five foot high caterpillar-like creature. Favours dark conditions and eats any small creatures it can sting. Moves very slowly and makes a raspy noise when threatened.
Cannot attack normally, but may brush a victim with its stings. Anyone attacking the crawler or otherwise risking contact with the stings must also make a Save as if they were attacked.
DEX Save to avoid contact with the hair-like stingers. Anyone stung feels an immediate pain similar to a nettle. A few minutes later the sensation feels like shards moving inside their body and they lose 1d6 STR and DEX. Joints resist bending, forcing such movement causes an audible snap, feeling like a tube of glass has broken inside the  joint. Each minute of movement, other than very careful, slow walking, causes loss of 1d6 STR. The effect wears off after a long rest.

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Odd People - Caspia Carty

Caspia lived a life of aristocracy for her first nine years, enjoying hunting with her favourite hound, Scraps. One morning, while hunting with her father, she saw her family mansion glow white. With a flash of light it was reduced to flaming rubble and Caspia and her Father collapsed. When she woke her Father was gone.

Since then she has become inseparable from Scraps. She appears to have intense conversations with the hound. Homeless, they wander Bastion Country, surviving day to day. Several family members within the aristocracy have taken them in, but they always escape before long.

Caspia Carty
STR 7, DEX 11, WIL 14, 9hp.
Musket (1d6+1), Knife (1d6), Fancy Clothes.

Scraps - Gunhound
STR 10, DEX 13, WIL 5, 7hp.
Acts as an Arcanum for Caspia with the following spells.
Command Word (Power 1): Order a target to drop, fall, flee or halt unless they pass a WIL Save. Can only target animals.
Breath of Recovery (Power 2): Touch a creature and restore 1d6 points of lost STR, but take that much damage yourself. Scraps takes the damage when Caspia uses this Spell.
Dire Beasts (Power 5): Up to five animals double in size. They gain +1 Armour and melee damage. They also grow much more violent. Scraps must be one of the targets.

A character for Into the Odd.